"I tried to think, but I couldn't get my head to work."
- Haruki Murakami,
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, pg. 238
"PROUD NOT TO SERVE GARAGE FOOD."
- sign outside a Shell garage,
seen on A55 in North Wales
My recent reading - Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg's World of Wonder (a compilation of some of the best Golden Age sf short stories with accompanying essays), Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami - has done good, but at the moment it feels like terrible damage. I tried to write, but I couldn't get my head to work. If I can't think I can't write.
But a thought has formed: These excellent, world class writers are showing me how far I have to go. I have frozen in awe, dumbstruck by the glare, the power, the ability of their stories and the quality of their words. Now as I write this a voice in my head is saying, I can't do it I can't do it I can't do it. But another voice in my head, a voice that sounds suspiciously like my wife's, is telling me that of course I can do it, I just need to do it. She is reassuring me that I have ability and a story, but I can be lazy.
Today a garage in North Wales made an unusual claim, a boast. Proud not to serve garage food. What does it mean. Garage food we imagine to be mainly, I think, Ginsters pasties. Ginsters pasties, Peperamis, sweets and chocolate, perhaps even a bacon buttie kept warm for hours at a time in a hot cabinet. I imagine this is probably what you think of in response to the phrase garage food (unless you are American or something and then it might be, I dunno, those battered-hot-dog-on-a-stick things you all go on about). But only because this is what garages tend to sell, they have brought it upon themselves, this association with quick artificially flavoured meat and sweets. This is what people want to eat when they are driver - or - this is what people eat because it is convenient and it is there.
But 'Proud not to serve garage food', what does this even mean? Does it mean that it does not serve the sort of stuff listed above? It does not sell sweets and crisps? This would make it unique amongst all shops in a way that is surely not conducive to good business. And it has replaced the standard fare with a better class of food, goats cheese tart, seared swordfish, limocello semifreddo? Doesn't that sort of food then enter the classification of 'garage food' rendering the statement on the sign a lie. A sign incapable of telling the truth.
The only conceivable conclusion is that the garage doesn't sell any food at all. If that is the case should the sign not read, 'Proud not to serve food'? And how is that something to boast about? I can't understand the implication of that sign. 'Proud not to serve garage food.' I must meditate upon it.
To be foolish and to recognise that one is a fool ...
A spoon cannot taste the food it carries ...
To conquer oneself ...
Further down the A55, the cleanest brightest cherry red gate - wide and long and flanked by immaculate blue posts - marking the entrance to a farmer's field. They looked like a brand new Fisher-Price my little farmer toy, still and unplayed with, mint condition in the box. The mud of the field, the weathering of the wind and rain was yet to touch them. Even for newly installed farm furniture they seemed more than is needed. So bright.
We traveled past the garage sign and the immaculate gate at the national speed limit stopping neither out of purpose nor curiosity. We just went on. I saw them and noted them as I was the passenger. The driver, my wife, noted neither - her eyes on the road, her hand on the wheel. And we don't know how the message on the sign manifests itself within the garage shop, and we don't know our reflections in the unlikely uncanny lustre of the red gate with the blue posts.